Videogames for Social Change Conference

Videogames for Social Change Conference

Non-profit innovators, game designers and foundations will come together this week to advance the use of videogames for social good. Hosted by Games for Change (G4C) as part of the Serious Games Initiative, this international conference will be held October 21 and 22 at CUNY in the Heights in New York City.

The idea of using digital games for more than fun remains an unfamiliar concept for many Americans, even though half the population ages six and older plays video games. Yet the counter-examples are starting to add up.

We're finally starting to see examples of videogames that positively inspire and empower our youth, said Benjamin Stokes, Games for Change co-founder and a program manager at NetAid, a New York-based independent non-profit organization that fights global poverty.

Although hidden from the popular radar, the movement is rapidly growing: State Senators are using games to balance the Massachusetts budget, asthma patients are learning better health practices, and the United Nations is teaching a little of what's involved in delivering food aid to a famine-stricken country.

Just as documentary filmmakers use their medium to address important social issues, so too can games deeply engage audiences around the pressing issues of our day, said Suzanne Seggerman, Games for Change co-founder and Project Director at WebLab.

Open to the public for the first time, the G4C conference will focus on partnerships, existing games and emerging business models. Speakers include the General Manager of MTV's college TV station (Stephen Friedman), a Senior Program Officer from the MacArthur Foundation (Connie Yowell), the CEO of the gameLab studio (Eric Zimmerman) and a representative from the United Nations' World Food Programme (Zach Abraham).

Conference registration and program schedule is available through the G4C website, follow download tab above.

The conference aims to build partnerships by highlighting the best practices that will take education and activism into the 21st century. Practitioners, funders and theorists will explore successful funding and distribution models. It's rare to see such diverse industries coming together to explore social justice, said Barry Joseph, Games for Change co-founder and Director of Global Kids' Online Leadership Program.

The 2005 Conference builds on the success of last year's invitation-only exploratory event, funded as part of the Washington, D.C.-based Serious Games Initiative.

The keynote will be delivered by NYU digerati guru Clay Shirky followed that evening by a games expo featuring select social games including the UN's Food Force and Airport Insecurity by Persuasive Games. The conference will facilitate collaboration around developing the free resources needed to decrease the cost of game development for nonprofits.

In keeping with G4C's commitment to innovation for a better world, the conference will be action-oriented, provocative, original and fun:

- enjoy a live game design session featuring experts from gameLab, CEO Eric Zimmerman and Senior Designer Nick Fortugno;

- get advice on funding their independent games from the strong foundations and business development groups comprising the funders' panel.

Who should attend? Non-profits attempting to reach young people for social change, media experts, socially conscious games developers - in short, anyone interested in leveraging the mainstream power of interactive entertainment for a greater good will be stimulated and inspired by the G4C Conference.